Coyote roams a Paris Street, Medford, yard. / Valentino Ferrero photoCoyote roams a Medford yard -- a reminder of Arlington's experience with coyotes in 2021. / Valentino Ferrero photo

Dead cats. Residents “stalked” while walking dogs. School recess forced indoors. Medford residents are on edge due to an increase of coyote activity this year. “I was stalked. I’m only OK because my neighbor grabbed me,” said Meaghan Skowranek, a visually impaired resident who lives near Hickey Park

Skowranek’s neighbor, Georgie Esposito Lowe, recounted a scary experience while walking her dog. “A coyote chased my daughter, dog and I while walking near Paris Street at 9 a.m. It was in a full gallop after us with no provoking ... it was frightening,” Lowe wrote in response to a reporter inquiry on Facebook. Lowe said the three got away only by going into a neighbor’s house.

Recess held indoors

Residents who live near Hickey Park report seeing coyotes in the street and in their yards at all hours of the day. A nearby elementary school on Park Street has held indoor recess because of coyote sightings.

According to a series of Facebook posts and comments, residents all over the city have noticed an uptick in coyote activity over the past few months, particularly in the Fulton Heights, where one resident reports that several cats have been killed, and near Otis Street, where Medford police say a den is located.

Dave Wattles, furbearer project leader for the state Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, said coyote aggression can increase in mating season, which recently occurred, and when coyotes are raising their pups, which is currently happening. He said coyotes also act aggressively when defending their dens, which in urban areas can include parks, other open spaces and even yards.

While Wattles said he hadn’t heard about an increase in coyote activity, he did note that territories can shift every two to three years -- which could explain why residents are noticing coyotes being more active outside of the typical dawn and dusk hours.

Same number of calls

Steve Smirti, a spokesman for the City of Medford, said the city has gotten the same number of calls this year as in the past regarding coyote activity.

“I have not seen or heard of an increase in coyote activity,” Smirti wrote in an email. “We have received about the same number of calls about coyotes as we have in the past few years. Every spring there is an increase in coyote sightings as people begin to spend more time outside. The coyote population in Medford has been steady for the past 15 years at least.”

Wattles said coyotes born in urban areas tend not to be afraid of humans and need to be “aggressively” hazed. Aggressive hazing includes actively chasing them away from an area, throwing objects in their direction, spraying them  a hose and making harsh, loud and abrasive noise such as from an air horn or banging things together. He also suggested that dog walkers carry a walking stick, an air horn and citronella spray to protect themselves.

He noted that coyotes can be particularly aggressive near their dens, especially with dogs, and so he suggested avoiding those areas for another month or so until coyote pups have left the den.

Some locally see increase in coyote activity; town officials don't

Arlington, which endured coyotes attacking dogs and toddlers in 2021 and a few other similar incidents in the relatively recent past, even today has a Facebook group documenting coyote sightings. Resident Jang-Ho Cha started the group in 2021 due to coyote incidents in the town. See the group here >> Some Arlington residents agreed that there has been more coyote activity this year as well as in recent years.

“Lived in Arlington for 29 years and never saw a single one until this year. Now I have seen several walking around the neighborhood in the middle of the day like NBD [no big deal],” said Rich Collier in response to a Facebook question from a reporter.

“Myself and some people I know have had extra close encounters this year, more than past years,” wrote Ava Kowalski.

Balanced against those reports, Arlington Police Chief Julie Flaherty and Health Department Director Natasha Waden say that they have not received any reports of aggressive coyotes so far this year, according to Joan Roman, town public-information officer.

"That's not to say there aren't any," Roman wrote to YourArlington on May 20, "just that these offices are not hearing complaints. We hope that past educational efforts have assisted in the public having a better understanding of living with coyotes, though that may change as the seasons do."

She included a link to a recording of the coyote webinar the town hosted Oct. 7, 2021. Watch it here >>

Top 3 things recommended to reduce conflicts with coyotes

Wattles said the most important things to do are aggressive hazing, direct supervision of pets and keeping properties clear of trash, compost piles and bird feeders. These “food rewards” encourage coyotes to create dens in certain areas and to search other yards -- even “clean” ones -- for food.

Skowranek expressed frustration with trash pickup issues in her neighborhood along with some properties she said are overflowing with trash and debris. When asked whether the city had plans to deal with excess trash and debris on public and private property, Smriti said “When [such concerns are] reported, the Board of Health and Code Enforcement work with residents to reduce excess trash.”

 Sept. 6, 2021: Search continues after 2-year-olds attacked bycoyote in separate incidents
Oct. 6, 2021: Coyote attacks dog in fourth case since August  

This story by Allison Goldsberry was republished with the author's permission on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, updated with relevant Arlington-oriented social-media posts plus information provided by Town of Arlington spokeswoman Joan Roman. Goldsberry, who until 2016 managed InsideMedford, then a YourArlington partner news site, now writes for OneMedford, where this article was originally published >>